10 STEPS TO BETTER BEHAVIOUR
Be visible Every time I ask what a teacher wants from their senior leadership team, the resounding answer is: “I want to see them.” So do the children. More, they need to see the head teacher. They need to see that every nook and cranny is part of his or her kingdom. There can be no no-go zones for a head teacher.
Support for the teacher as a default position when in front of students The temptation to be Solomon in a dispute is enormous. It is true that teachers sometimes err, but the children need to see unity from the staff. If they know that they can play one against another, they will exploit it. Investigations, if they need to be done, should be done behind closed doors, and apologies made, if necessary, in public. Until then, assume that staff are telling the truth, and working for the good of the school.
Remember that new teachers do not exist within the same school as you As a school leader, you have a fluid timetable, with time to plan, follow up and recharge between the emotional cage-fight of a charged lesson. You also have status and the authority to dispense tough justice. The new teacher does not. I have seen heads describe their school’s behaviour as excellent, while all around them their staff battle monsters and go home weeping.
Develop a behaviour policy that applies to everyone, then stick to it as if an ‘Outstanding’ depended on it If children know what to expect in every lesson, and what sanctions and rewards they will accrue, then the teaching body supports itself. But if every teacher, department and faculty runs differently, and with differing severity and resolution, then children learn that rules only apply sometimes.
Make behaviour a focus, not merely an afterthought Good behaviour isn’t something to be tackled by delicious new initiatives in teaching and learning, Solo hexagons and PowerPoint at management meetings. Behaviour is tackled on the ground. Let every staff member know where they stand. Let every child know that the school is ruled by law and love. Talk about it constantly.
Focus on ‘behaviour leaders’ A tiny minority of children will, if left unchecked, set the standard for behaviour in the school. They will be persistent and they will exhaust you. Do not ignore them. Do not let them become role models for others, who will assume their behaviour is normal if no consequences ensue. And don’t let staff see that these pupils can persist in their behaviour. It will often mean removing them from classes until they can be mentored back into the community.
Streamline the behaviour code so that everyone can remember it clearly If it can’t be summarised in 10 sentences, it’s too much for staff and students to remember easily. It’s a template that worked for the 10 Commandments and it also works for schools.
Inclusion is a fine thing, but mustn’t be made a fetish Some children need to be removed from the mainstream, for their own good. This isn’t a failure; it’s a victory for everyone. They can receive the provision they need and the other children can learn unencumbered. It is very easy to cast unrepentant children back into classes. You may never see them again, but to the teacher it is a life sentence. To the child it is the most harmful piece of kindness they will ever receive. Dare to remove, even to the point of permanency. This is because the more certain the children see the consequence system in a school, the better. Detentions, punishments and the like are aimed at their own extinction. Applied properly and rigidly, their frequency fades. Applied foolishly, or inconstantly, they recur. Most of the schools that struggle with behaviour use their behaviour codes half-heartedly – and sometimes not at all – depending on whether the head is tired, feeling kind, or moved by the plea of the accused.
Be the change you wish to see in the school If the rule is no earphones, and you have a nice chat with a pupil wearing them, then you have tacitly suggested that you don’t care, or you sanction it. So why should anyone do otherwise? You have enormous power as a role model. And with great powers comes great responsibility. As you proceed, so others will follow. So it is with greater importance that you live the rules you claim to support.
If you expect a behaviour from your staff, then you must insist upon it You cannot police the school by yourself. Only the whole staff body can do that. So it follows that they need to be directed towards this noble end. Some will require extra direction: ask them why they didn’t get all the children to tuck their shirts in, for example, or why they didn’t send a pupil out. Most teachers want this more than you suspect. Just as the kids are waiting for their teachers to maintain order, so teachers look to the head to set the tone of a school. As you know, this isn’t a job where you court popularity – uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. The post requires the energy of a star, and the will of Oliver Cromwell. Good behaviour only happens when we make it happen. And the head is the heart of it. Tom Bennett is a full-time teacher in inner-city schools. He runs the TES behaviour advice forum, writes for the TES regularly and trains teachers across the UK. He is the author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.
LEADERSHIP FOCUS ● MARCH/APRIL 2013
Leadership Focus March/April 2013